Hey everyone your Chronic Trips founder Seth here with our first full length blog! I had the pleasure two weekends ago of attending the 3rd annual New England Cannabis Convention. You may be asking yourself why Chronic Trips would be going to this or even interested in this industry. Well our 3 pillars (philosophies) to our company is to build community, create sense of place, and foster holistic wellness. My team and I have each personally seen the affects of what some cultures call a sacred plant and what it has done in America and around the world to help build community, create a sense of place within ourselves, and foster holistic wellness in many measurable ways medically, scientifically, physiologically, and psychologically. So we felt it would be well fitting to our model to collaborate with this industry in a small way to do our part to help reduce the stigma, educate, and push this option as a holistic wellness tool for wellbeing. That being said I then wanted to go to this convention to learn as much as I could about the current medical and recreational industry in New England because my knowledge is superficial to say the least and in their event description it says “Event where businesses, entrepreneurs, investors, educators, patients, advocates, and consumers could connect, learn, and grow.” So I knew this was where Chronic Trips needed to be. Now I’m going to turn to the event itself and what I did above and beyond the random bathroom break and endless walking and sitting.
Let me give you a little frontloading of information here about this convention and how it began. Seeing as it’s only going on the 3rd year of this convention's inception naturally your brain will say it's not that old. Your brain isn’t wrong in this aspect but it may be underestimating the speed at which this industry is blooming (see what I did there) which is interesting given the preconceived notion that stoners just sit on the couch and do nothing. This industry just like the technology industry is moving at hyperspeed so the fact that this convention is only going on it’s 3rd year is minimal given what has happened in these past three years. So the New England Cannabis Network (NECANN) was conceived in 2014 during a discussion lamenting the lack of established resource hubs for the rapidly expanding Cannabis industry in New England. NECANN felt a locally owned & operated convention model focused on the New England market (and each state’s medical and recreational status) would be a superior alternative to the inevitable corporate convention-chains bringing their generic, national-business-focused “Mc-Canna Conventions” to New England. Rather than focusing on what the New England Cannabis Industry can do for us, NECANN took a collaborative approach to their shows (having done one in MA, ME, and RI now) that has resulted in consistently high ROI for exhibitors, sponsors, and attendees, facilitating growth for all. The New England Cannabis Convention is unique in that it serves both the B2B (business to business), B2C (business to consumers) communities, as well patients and caregivers. This grassroots approach resulted in every single facet of the industry being represented. They took this convention very seriously and professionally especially pertaining to the education and advocacy aspects and I was blown away.
Saturday was the first day of the conference and I woke up that morning ready to be, like my dad would say “Be like a sponge and soak up that knowledge”. Getting to the Hynes convention center was easy as driving straight down the Mass pike and luckily sliding through with no traffic which is almost unheard of. After arriving and getting my entry ticket with the very appropriate accompanying NECANN pin I walked through the convention doors.
Upon entering it was just complete chaos as the doors entered into the vendor floor before you got to the stage in back or the business areas to the right. So I had to step off to the side so I could take it all in as it was quite overwhelming and get my bearings on the program map I got. As I had prepped the night before I had an app for the convention that listed out all of the programs for the event by day and time so I already knew what programs I wanted to see and was so thankful for the map of the layout even though it was fairly easy to navigate after the initial shock.
The first program I sat in on was lead by Nic Easley the Founder/CEO of Comprehensive Cannabis Consulting (3C) and the title of his session was “Avoiding Cannabiz Pitfalls”. This session focused on the amazing opportunities available in the Cannabis and Hemp industries. Nic’s Consulting firm focuses on making businesses mainly farmers within this industry better from the ground up. He hails from a small midwest town, was raised on a farm and now consults farmers and other Cannabis and Hemp businesses in every state that has legalised medical and/or recreational Cannabis. Nic had some great insight on the public relations and marketing side of the industry. Some of which included the need to get away from defeminizing marketing practices and corny capitalism and branding styles. I’d like to mention here that the subject of making sure as to not defeminize women while fostering diverse inclusiveness as being a main philosophy was pushed everywhere throughout the convention. I think that those issues are important and something amazing that you don’t see often pushed especially at conventions. Program #2 was titled “Cannabis Career or New Business”. The moderator for this program was Steve Flaks the VP of Sales at BioTrack THC and the speakers for this program where Beth Waterfall the Chair of Women Grow Boston, Kemani Jefferson the President of Mass. Rec. Consumer Council, and Meg Owen the Digital Marketing Manager of Leafly. This program explored each of these industry professionals backgrounds for example the very popular question “How did you get into this industry” and they shared their insights, lessons, and future projections into the Cannabis industry. This program was very insightful and a wonderful lesson I learned from it was that it is going to require the entirety of our communities to work together so that each aspect of this industry can thrive and grow as a whole and I thought that was just an amazing philosophy that can be applied to not just the Cannabis industry but to many others as well. Program #3 was titled “Transferable Leadership & Skills in the Cannabis Industry”. The moderator for this program was Sonia Espinosa the CoFounder of Mass. Rec. Consumer Council and the speakers where Ezra Pryor from Heidolph North America, Marcus Johnson-Smith from Kush Groove, and Tiffany Hogan from THC Staffing, Recruitment. This program was much like the last as it had great practical advice and insight to anyone entering the Cannabis industry. The big take away I got from this one is how raw or authentic it felt in their delivery of everything. They also stressed how everyone already possess some sort of transferrable skill to this industry. Talking with some of the folks in the audience they left with a feeling of empowerment me being one of them but maybe it’s because I’m particularly fond of uplifting talks. The last program I had the pleasure of sitting in on the first day of the convention was titled “Creating Positive PR for Your Cannabis Industry Brand”. The speakers for this program where Robert O’Shaughnessy the Founder of On Higher Ground, Parisa Mansouri-Rad the VP of Strategy at MaryJaneMarketing, and Roy Bingham the CEO at BDS Analytics. If you like analyzing things down the exact percent, number, ratio etc. then this program was one you would have loved. I like analyzing and experimenting as much as any scientific mind does but even I was drowning in numbers, percents, trends etc. during this one. It was overwhelming the information they had compiled over the past 4 or so years surrounding the Cannabis industry and they had only an hour to word vomit that onto the audience so it’s a bit understandable but the information on consumer, product, and industry was invaluable. The big take away from this one is that when I can afford it I want access to BDS Analytics database as it contains very valuable industry wide data that any business can grow from. The specific aspect of this I really find interesting is they are compiling data on what consumer of Cannabis are doing after they consume for example are they playing video games and lounging around or are they going for hikes and enjoying healthy lifestyles which it turns out the trend is towards the second of those two examples. That was the big take away but some of the other topics they touched on was how to build positive awareness for brands and products, heighten reputations, as well as drive sales. The business man in me loved this program as it was highly educational and definitely left feeling compelled to learn more.
After having had arrived at the convention nice and early as to not miss the first program after the fourth I realized it was nearing 5p.m. and my brain was swimming from a day of overloaded stimulation so I decided to call it a day a leave. Before going to sleep this night I was very shocked at the amazing camaraderie and community aspect/feeling of the convention and realized that by collaborating with this industry and Chronic Trips we are joining a wonderful community full of the hardest working people for any industry in the world right now bigger than we ever anticipated so we have a huge responsibility to uphold those values and work as hard to grow with this community.
I woke up Sunday just as excited as I was the day before. Maybe even more excited because today I got to share this experience with a few friends and I didn’t have to drive! After driving to Newton and deciding to take the train into Boston all the while skipping an extraordinary amount of traffic which was awesome.
I will probably go this option into Boston most times from now on because it was super convenient and anyone who has ever tried to park in Boston knows it can be hell. The only downside to this trip that day is that I had left my beloved hydro flask at the train station. For anyone who is a massive gear junkie like I am you know that losing a piece of gear is like losing a piece of your soul. We all arrived safe and sound minus a piece of my soul to the convention and today my goal was to do less of the programs and speeches because they were mainly the same as the day prior and do more of the vendor side of things to get an idea of the latest in the service and product side of the Cannabis industry. With well over one hundred different vendors attending this conference I did manage to see them all but wont be able to write about all of them because it would A) make this blog way too long and B) get very boring for the reader for example the differences in soil composition companies might not interest everyone. So I’ll just highlight a few that I really enjoyed, of course the local western MA companies, and a cool non-profit that we ended up collaborating with from now on into the future. First up is the education and service groups I found like Canna Care Docs. What they do is provide professional 1 on 1 doctor consultation for the medical use of Cannabis. They were very kind when I was talking to them, very knowledgable about the vast medical benefits of Cannabis, and seemingly very passionate about the value of care, education, and advocacy that they bring to the region. Next I met a really friendly person named Izzy that works with Women Grow: Boston. This is a great organization for education surrounding all things in the Cannabis industry from farming and cultivation to developing a business even reaching into politics and advocacy programs. Even though the name says “Women Grow” Izzy assured me that all genders are welcome at their monthly meetings. I recommend anyone to go and check out this organization because they are all about building community and supporting anyone that wants to do anything in this wide spectrum industry. After saying goodbye to Izzy I made my way over to New England Veterans Alliance (NEVA) and what they do is provide Veterans with education surrounding the psychological benefits of Cannabis and it’s affects on our sense of place and holistic wellness. They actually spoke at one of the programs today titled “Cannabis as Medicine/Therapy”. I really loved this organization for what they do by working with veterans with psychological issues like PTSD and depression to working with veterans who have more physical conditions. I really respect their passion for showing people the light in what can sometimes be a very dark tunnel. It takes very special people to do that and I think NEVA nailed it. After leaving NEVA I was just wandering around when I got distracted by these buckets (I’m a simple person). Turns out they are connected to a non-profit organization called Key for Hope “Unlocking Hunger One Key at a Time”. I absolutely fell in love with this fantastic father daughter duo of an organization. What they do is collect and recycle unwanted keys to feed the hungry. In Massachusetts alone there are over 745,000 people that are suffering from food insecurity. It’s a growing nationwide systemic issue and for every one million keys that get recycled (and there are keys everywhere) Key for Hope and provide $33,000 to help stock local food pantries. So how it all works is you get a bucket, fill it up with keys, take the bucket full of keys to your local scrap yard, take that check and donate the money to your chosen food pantry. I loved this because it’s very simple making it something anyone can do, it’s very easy to get started just go to their website (Keyforhope.org) and most of all it helps people do something most folks take for granted which is get basic nutrients so needless to say I walked away with a bucket in hand and Chronic Trips is very thankful for the opportunity to represent Key for Hope, we will forever be apart of Key for Hope and what they stand for so contact us and donate your keys! From here I transitioned to product vendors so of course I had to go to the most local vendor to me in western MA and it’s called New England Treatment Access (NETA) and it's located in Northampton, MA. What they are is a dispensary and what they do is provide medical patients with Cannabis for medicinal and holistic uses. This means not only can you get the Cannabis flower but they can provide you with ointments, oils, and salves for complimentary (I don’t like the term alternative) medicine and holistic wellness purposes. These folks were the main dispensary represented at the conference so everything else were basically products from vaporizers, lights, containers, and nutrients, to magazines, clothing, labeling, extraction products, seeds, and games. My favorite part about walking around this side of the conference were all of the stickers I collected as I do so I can cover my refrigerator.
All in all this conference was an amazing experience and very pleased that Chronic Trips made the decision to come here and network with this wonderful community of fantastic people. I could go on and on more about the different product and service companies represented but I think you get a good idea at what and who was there. If you want to know more you can always got to the NECANN website or wait till next year and you can go to the convention in Boston yourself which I highly recommend. If you can’t wait till next year Portland, ME will have one this October so you can check out theirs. Chronic Trips just might make an appearance to that conference too so stay tuned for an update on that. A huge thank you to all of the speakers and vendors that took the time to talk to Chronic Trips and I. I gained an overwhelming amount of knowledge in just two days and direction on where to find more. This past week has involved digesting all I learned into a manageable size for my brain. In closing I want to reiterate our excitement for collaborating with Key for Hope to help fight hunger within our local community. Thanks for taking the time to read my blabber and come back again soon for our next blog!!